Already flattened by a tidal wave of cancellations in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Capital Brewing managing director Laurence Kain is now struggling to keep the doors open as staff dodge COVID exposures.
"[Going] into the last couple of weeks before Christmas, just the volume of booking cancellations was phenomenal: in the hundreds per day," Mr Kain said.
"One afternoon you'd look at bookings for the next day and it would be 850 people and the next morning it would be 550."
The brewery has already closed twice in December, after COVID-19 exposures on-site meant there weren't enough staff to keep the business running.
Strain on Canberra's testing facilities continued on Monday, with sites at Garran and Mitchell prioritising close contacts, people with symptoms and returned international travellers.
Daily case numbers reached a record-high of 189.
"At the moment all our guys and girls have been turned away, and so now they've been told to go back tomorrow," Mr Kain said of employees trying to get tested on Monday.
"We've barely got enough people to operate the taproom, and so what would be awesome is if we could use rapid antigen testing for staff."
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith on Monday said the territory could not rely on rapid antigen testing to alleviate demand for PCR tests.
"Unfortunately if we're testing people who are contacts or symptomatic, PCR tests are really what we need in order to confirm that case," Ms Stephen-Smith said at a COVID-19 update.
"The rapid antigen tests aren't particularly useful when we're targeting that cohort for a public health purpose who we think have actually been exposed to the virus or who are symptomatic."
She said that rapid antigen tests, when taken repeatedly over a number of days, could be useful for screening ahead of travel.
Assembly Bar owner Wes Heincke said it had been a struggle to reopen after about 10 of his approximately 70 staff tested positive in the lead-up to Christmas.
"We closed three days before Christmas, when we would have had three days of very busy trade," Mr Heincke said.
Rostering, finding staff and ensuring they felt safe at work required a huge effort.
"We're calling in favours from friends, we're calling in favours from other people we know just to help us have enough staff to get through," he said.
Mr Heincke said he didn't think the ACT government had adequately prepared for this level of community transmission, and how it would impact businesses.
"All it takes is one more person to get a positive test result and then we're going to have to shut again," he said.
"We're all back to square one again."
Ms Stephen-Smith on Monday acknowledged that the "a lot of people" would have to quarantine and be furloughed from work during this period.
"We are seeing the impact on our health system as well as on the wider community, so that's the other thing that I think we need to continue to monitor," she said.
"We don't have any measures in place at this point in time, and it would it's very hard for us to do something that's going to help businesses backfill their staff, but we know that this is a challenge for for everyone across our community."
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